Opinions/Advice on creating art vs studying
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  1. #1
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    Opinions/Advice on creating art vs studying

    Hi all.
    I don't post much on CA, but I lurk the critique, sketchbook and art discussion forums a lot and I was debating on whether or not to post this as I know this particular forum is littered with 'I don't know what I am doing, help' threads. I was hoping I could get some advice/opinions on drawing in general.

    I see a lot of new artists and members to CA being told to study from life and books, Loomis, Bridgman etc, and I consider this a huge part of my learning process like many other artists. However, as obvious as this may sound, should imaginative drawing not be as big a part of your learning process as studying from life, if it is your end goal to be able to draw confidently from imagination (but not exclusively, all artists need references). I know that working artists use references religiously, setting up models and scenery, even when drawing dragons and things that don't exist in real life, but I have to admit I get confused in the critique forum when I see artists asking for help on a piece obviously drawn from imagination. They are told to study the reference more closely, to use a different reference, to scrap the piece entirely because the piece is 'lost', but isn't creating images, extracting those ideas from your brain however poorly executed they may be part of the process? Do you always have to be working exactly from life or from a photo of that thing you want in your drawing, be it a figure striking a certain pose for your drawing to be considered credible?

    This is purely opinion, and I'd love to hear everyone elses thoughts. I think it's very easy as a beginner to be deterred from creating the pieces we want to because we don't have the skill, you spend all your time studying anatomy (which is obviously worthwhile) but if you haven't practiced the type of art you actually want to make then how can you do it? I know some people would argue that if you had studied all the fundamentals enough you would be able to make all the art you wanted to but that's where I'm unsure as a beginner. I don't know if any of this made sense at all haha, I apologise if not.

    I know you guys must get sick of discussing things like this, especially if you're a professional certain things just seem obvious, but it's just something that's been on my mind and had to get it off my chest, so that's why it's a bit muddled!

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    I dont really get your exact point, but heres my 2 cents..

    If you just ant to create "modern art" type of scribbly images, then yes, you can just go crazy. Let your inner feelings or whatever flow. Drip paint and splatter it across the canvas. But when doing concept art, there is a need for a certain level of realism. No matter if you're painting some floating castle in the sky, or a fire breathing dragon, or a kickass mech and it's crazy pilot--- your piece will not look believable when your lighting is off, your anatomy is off...the image that you're trying to sell will be undermined. Lets say I want to paint an orc warrior with 6 arms. Without knowledge of how muscles and anatomy work, I will not be able to piece it together in such a way that it'll look believable. Without knowledge of how light and shadows work, my painting will look flat and plasticky. Without knowledge of posture and balance, the orc will look like he's falling over. His metal armour will not look like metal unless its properly rendered with the correct highlights and texture. All this needs study. Imaginative drawings can be used as warmup, or in sketchbooks for later inspiration for more finished pieces.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bbbbethhhh View Post
    should imaginative drawing not be as big a part of your learning process as studying from life
    yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by bbbbethhhh View Post
    but I have to admit I get confused in the critique forum when I see artists asking for help on a piece obviously drawn from imagination. They are told to study the reference more closely, to use a different reference, to scrap the piece entirely because the piece is 'lost', but isn't creating images, extracting those ideas from your brain however poorly executed they may be part of the process? Do you always have to be working exactly from life or from a photo of that thing you want in your drawing, be it a figure striking a certain pose for your drawing to be considered credible?
    i get confused alot in c&c section aswell, probably for other reasons though. extracting the ideas is part of the process and putting them down fast and quite often poorly, is aswell. but its in almost all cases not used as part of the process, but as an attempt to nudge those sketches around till somewhen it suddenly turns into a finished picture. im personally totally fine with someone not using reference, if he/she is able to pull his illustration off without it, or if the artist is satisfied with the outcome anyway. then though, i see no reason to ask for c&c, because the problems pointed out wont get fixed anyway. or at least not appropriately (how would the lack of understanding something suddenly be compensated, if ref is still avoided?).

    Quote Originally Posted by bbbbethhhh View Post
    This is purely opinion, and I'd love to hear everyone elses thoughts. I think it's very easy as a beginner to be deterred from creating the pieces we want to because we don't have the skill, you spend all your time studying anatomy (which is obviously worthwhile) but if you haven't practiced the type of art you actually want to make then how can you do it?
    all studying you do, leaves traces in your mind, which you then use to build you pictures. the vaster this library is, the easier it is to find solutions to all different needs.

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    RustyPulley, I agree with you completely, and I understand the need for realism in the concept art industry for example, all art should take reference from real life in some way or another, it is the world we live in after all. it is my fault for being unclear, I didn't want to come across like I was undermining study, I do genuinly agree that the need for study is important, but that if you simply focus on studying and dont incorporate it into any of your own ideas, how can people advance into creating the work they want to create. I should have been clearer about the idea of applying the things you have learned through studying, I apologise, a lot of it doesnt make much sense.

    Sone_one, I think I understand what you're saying, artists should use reference where it is needed, but they shouldn't let it hinder their work either (if they are simply getting too caught up in studying and forgetting why they want to do art in the first place). However, it seems like a lot of beginners, myself included have a habit of throwing the spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks, and in that case they should be guided into using reference like you say. I spose I was looking at it from the wrong angle, thinking of it like a library seems to make more sense, as I don't want to see them as two separate things, I think they should be intertwined, (maybe that goes without saying?)

    Edit: I say ' I think ' too much... Not self centered haha. My bad.

    Last edited by bbbbethhhh; December 22nd, 2012 at 08:15 AM.
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    There are often analogies to other disciplines here when people talk about learning. In music you need to learn the notes, scales, etc. You can try to improvise all you want and might hit a nice passage or two along the way but all in all it will sound terrible until you know how to put notes and chords together. I could make a similar sports analogy but I think you get the picture. I would never say don't draw from you imagination until you know your anatomy like a surgeon. But I would also caution you about building bad habits that are really hard to break.

    So my advice would be to learn you a,b,cs and when you draw from imagination try to implement the things you are learning along the way.

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    Oh good, I was worried the week (world) was going to end without us having another VS thread in the Art Discussion boards.

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    RP and SO have said it but I will reiterate. I think you have a misconception of what your imagination is supposed to do. You imagine the character or creature, you imagine the scene or environment, you even imagine the view and the composition in the beginning stages of the development of the image. What you don't imagine are things you can't imagine (and this changes as you build up experience in art making and a visual library). These could be the quality of the light or the specific musculature of an arm or the folds of a robe under the specific lighting conditions you want. Those, if you are any good or care about what you do, you get reference for. Reference is something you refer to for clarity of vision not something you just blindly copy. Practicing means practicing design and composition as well as anatomy and other fundamentals. If you want to practice set yourself attainable goals though.

    Maybe one orc with six arms is fine starting out. Most newbs want to paint fifty orcs with six arms each in battle armor scaling a rune carved wall in 3 point perspective in dappled light. How could that not possibly suck if they can't draw any of those elements well? The best way to learn the elements of picture making is to isolate them in the beginning and then build up complexity as you become more accomplished in depicting those single elements to your satisfaction. Easier to start with things you can see like the nude figure or real animals or real landscapes so when you do imagine you have some material to imagine with.

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    The difference between what people are told and what they hear is fascinating.
    "In order to do what you want to do, you have to do X, Y, and Z" is a totally different thing than "don't do that."


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    One thing I want to note though is doing a lot of imaginative drawings in the beginning is fine. What happens is people don't do enough studies. Instead of other careers or sports - think of it as a balanced diet.

    In terms of hearing it's not just what Elwell said but also people interpret that "You must do more of X,Y,Z (to get better at A)" as "You can't do A until you do X,Y,Z"


    It gets to a point that people forget why they wanted to draw in the first place. It's fine to be upset over boring studies, it's fine to doodle a dragon, penis monster, a fantasy landscape as long as you're balancing your "diet" to work on studies so you get better at creating more believable dragons, penis monsters and fantasy landscapes ;P

    But if you need the picture version: http://www.marcscheff.com/the-truth-...ust-takes-time

    http://www.marcscheff.com/the-truth-...great-painting

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    Have you ever read a book on a topic you're fairly familiar with and cringed through the whole thing because the writer had done very little research and there were big glaring errors throughout the whole thing? That also happens in art. So when I tell a new artist to work on the basics, I'm saying "work on grammar, check your spelling and research your topic", not "dump your story about a park ranger who solves crime and write nonfiction".

    And if you follow the forums for a while, you see that advice (at least the good advice) is generally tailored to what the person is trying to accomplish. There were a couple artists working in a naive, folk-art style here last year and people didn't tell them to quit drawing that way and work on anatomy and perspective. But most of the people who come here are trying to accomplish similar things so they get similar advice.

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    1 Is where you learn to draw a stylized figure by copying it, like comic art for example, till it is done by memory. Comic artist learn to draw by copying other comic artist.

    2 Sometimes you see art that looks like it's done entirely by memory, but they've used a little bit of reference. It's impossible to tell what reference they used indirectly. They may have used lots of references and it just "looks" like they did it from memory. But they are also mostly constructing different forms together from memory.

    3 This is like number 2, but more dependent on reference. Here's where a lot of artist use some constructed memory drawing, then find references, lots of references and collage the information together, never copying directly. Take this example by Jason Chan.

    4 Here's where artist usually depend on the reference a LOT and change it to better fit their ideas. This is pretty much where you would do caricature for example or Norman Rockwell pictures. You can tell it's not exactly copied, shapes and other elements have been exaggerated. This may be where you paint from life or photographs very loosely, but change it to better fit your ideas.

    5 This Is usually where an artist paints from life or tries to emulate a photograph. You could be trying to do a trompe l'oeil or academic life drawings from observation. This is purely observational drawing. Drawing what's directly in front of you.

    To be able to do number 1, you need to be able to do number 5, because you have to be able to draw from observation very well in order to start copying other stylized figures accurately. Some artist only want to practice doing number 5 and 4 and that's fine if that's the type of art you want to do.

    Artist that try to do pictures like number 3 usually do all of them for whatever type of picture they are trying to create. Sometimes they need to use a lot of reference, sometimes they incorporate a lot from memory. Just depends on what kind of picture they are trying to make.

    Last edited by Bowlin; December 22nd, 2012 at 01:03 PM.
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    That was an interesting take, Bowlin.

    When I first started as a musician, I hated scales and exercises and simple songs. I wanted to play loud, exciting music. The older I get, the more I find scales and exercises like meditation...soothing and calming. Which is why my music room is a bathroom way, way in the back of the house where nobody has to listen to me play those bloody scales all day.

    Wait, what?

    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
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    A little late but I'll try to add...in order to work well from your imagination you have to know two things: 1) How to work well and 2) Why(meaning you have to say something interesting). To add yet another analogy, a good one often used is the idea of a "toolbelt" or toolkit...the more tools you have (understanding and awareness of fundamentals) the better the house you can build.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    To add yet another analogy, a good one often used is the idea of a "toolbelt" or toolkit...the more tools you have (understanding and awareness of fundamentals) the better the house you can build.
    well not exactly. people nowadays have a MASSIVE toolbelt, but the bigger it gets the less people know the appropriate tool for the job. seems like (due to an inflation in tools ) people started painting with their hammers and driving in nails with saws. omnipresence of infinite opinions on how something is done the right way, apparently negates the use of personal problemsolving capacities.
    always scared to do something wrong... not beeing efficient... not beeing fast enough in learning... "if i cant explain einsteins theory by the age of 15 im kinda doomed"...

    god calm down everyone. cities aint built in 1 day...

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    Quote Originally Posted by sone_one View Post
    well not exactly. people nowadays have a MASSIVE toolbelt, but the bigger it gets the less people know the appropriate tool for the job. seems like (due to an inflation in tools ) people started painting with their hammers and driving in nails with saws. omnipresence of infinite opinions on how something is done the right way, apparently negates the use of personal problemsolving capacities.
    always scared to do something wrong... not beeing efficient... not beeing fast enough in learning... "if i cant explain einsteins theory by the age of 15 im kinda doomed"...

    god calm down everyone. cities aint built in 1 day...

    He said tools as in understanding and awareness of the concepts of picture making, not tools as in the new custom photoshop brush.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    He said tools as in understanding and awareness of the concepts of picture making, not tools as in the new custom photoshop brush.
    i know. he said that . i just picked it up and used it differently on purpose. "not exactly" just been used to start my post rather than argueing or disagreeing.

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    I'm going to really regret posting this SO much. On Christmas too. Oh, feck it, what the hell. I have the perfect example illustrating this point.

    I once took a 2 month digital painting class with Feng Zhu. Some info about me, I'm more of a 3D modeller, not really a 2D artist or painter. The painting course was once a week (I'm working), after that we go back and as homework, present a piece the next week, whereupon Feng will critique us. And that's enough excuses for myself. I'll just show the picture. I don't think it even needs to be mentioned which piece is done by Feng (he did this in 15 minutes, I took the whole week) and which one done by me.

    Needless to say, I felt chopped off at my knees.

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